Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy. – Aristotle
Anger is fascinating.
For many years I’ve been teaching a workshop called “Deal With It Now or Deal With It Later”. We delve into the topic of conflict. It’s my favorite seminar! We talk about how we either deal with conflict now (the need to clear the air and resolve) or we deal with conflict later (the need to first gather our thoughts). This workshop is what ignited my curiosity. Watching what would transpire in every seminar (reaction, frustration, defensiveness, right/wrong thinking) and hearing the passionate feedback afterwards was intriguing.
But more important than my curiosity being ignited was the reality that I was avoiding and ignoring my inner-conflict. I was struggling with feelings of anger. I didn’t want to admit the truth that I had anger living inside me and I didn’t know what to do with it.
About 3 years ago, I decided to be my own case study. Admitting I had a side of me that was angry (and would show up in certain situations), was the beginning of my quest to understand myself more: why do I get angry, what is my anger all about, how does my anger feel?
The more I explore this subject, the more I immerse myself in it. I find myself chatting with anyone who wants to talk about how anger affects them; listening and learning their perspective and journey.
We are all so very different.
What a quest it’s been.
Sometimes I fail and sometimes I succeed. Many times I’ve regretted what I’ve said, regretted what I didn’t say, regretted when I was afraid to speak out, and regretted when I’ve spoken too harshly, too curt, too mean, and sometimes too cruel.
#1. We all struggle with anger
Some of us implode. Some of us explode. Some of us are active aggressive and some of us are passive aggressive. Some of us remain calm. Some of us freak out.
However, one principle must never be compromised: anger must never harm another living being. Anger’s intention is to never degrade, demoralize, abuse, threaten, inflict or dominate another living being. The reason I say ‘living being’ is because some people will also let their frustrations out on their pets, not just humans.
There are levels of anger. Here’s the list I’ve compiled so far. Have you ever felt…
Can you relate to any of the above? If you’ve ever expressed any of these words then you know what it’s like to feel anger. Anger has many faces.
#2 Anger is an energy that touches your body first, before it gets to your mind.
It doesn’t matter if you can articulate well when you’re angry, and it doesn’t matter if you say and do all the right things when you’re angry, and it doesn’t matter if you know how to walk away so you don’t get upset, and it doesn’t matter if you think through your words first – all of that is your response to anger, and not anger itself.
More important than your response is to recognize that anger is an energy that you carry in your body. Whether spoken or unspoken, it’s there. This was such an eye opener for me!
We continue to teach people how ‘not to be angry’. But what if we focused more on the energy that comes from anger? This energy is what provokes our behaviour. My body communicates to me when I’m angry, not my feelings or emotions. My feelings and emotions are symptoms.
And it applies to all of us. Regardless if you’re an emotional type or not, anger begins with a physical reaction.
(click the photo for the full article about the Body Atlas)
I was sharing with Dr. Emily Schwimmer, LMFT, a psychotherapist in the Los Angeles area, about my struggles with anger. I sought her counsel out. I really enjoy talking to her and the way she articulates her insights.
Emily said this one thing and it truly transformed me:
“Calm your body and it will calm your mind
and then you’ll find your words.”
#3. Anger is our way of trying to find words.
There are many times I’ve been angry but couldn’t find my words and to think that all I had to do was calm my body? Not finding my words was very difficult for me. Sometimes my emotions would get the best of me and I’d feel irrational and the words would evaporate into thin air!
Let me repeat this valuable advice a different way.
When your body is not calm,
your mind is not calm
and you will not find your words.
Focus first and foremost on calming your body. Then calm your mind. And you will absolutely undeniably find your words. You will find your best words! The words you really want to say. This really works!
And if you’re anything like me, you’ll like yourself way better than the other person that implodes or explodes or attacks or retreats. The person that finds their words and can speak them out – that is truly the wonderful you. And you deserve to be wonderful, even in the midst of anger.
ps. If you’d like to receive a 20 minute free consultation, please book a time on my calendar. Would love to hear your thoughts: www.karenthrall.com/book